Why Americans Are Drinking Less
Alcohol is America's drink for all reasons. We drink because we are sad; to celebrate a success, or to console ourselves in defeat. Taken in moderation, alcohol raises our spirits and may even improve our health. Consumed in excess, it is a leading contributor to premature death, fatal accidents and suicide.
In 1983 alcohol provided $ 12. 2 billion in taxes, but cost the nation $ 89. 5 billion in lost employment and productivity, health care, property loss and crime, as well as immeasurable damage to the family lives of those involved.
As these costs have become clearer, Americans have started drinking less, a Reader's Digest/Gallup Survey reveals, and a smaller proportion than at any time since 1969 report drinking at all. Of the 1516 adults 18 and older interviewed across the country, 65 percent drink beer, wine or hard liquor at least occasionally—this is down from 71 percent in 1977. Twenty-nine percent say they have cut back on their consumption over the past five years, while only 11 percent say they drink more. In the 18-to-29 age group, however, 21 percent have increased consumption.
Of those who drink, 68 percent classify themselves as "light" drinkers, 26 percent say they drink "moderately," and only one percent admit they are "heavy" drinkers. However, these self-assessments are based on a variety of interpretations. A Maryland man who viewed himself an average drinker was surprised when he read information indicating that he was an alcoholic; he thought drinking ten cans of beer at a sitting affected only his weight.
Surveys commissioned by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) define heavy drinking—the point over which harm is scientifi¬cally measurable—as one ounce of absolute alcohol daily. This is the amount contained in slightly more than two 12-ounce cans of beer, two 6-ounce glasses of table wine (12-percent alcohol), or two l1/2-ounce jiggers (小玻璃杯) of hard liquor (80-proof). Based on those figures, HHS surveys classify nine percent of adults as heavy drinkers, with men outnumbering women three or four to one.
Why do people drink? When queried in another Gallup poll, 54 percent said they did it for "social reasons," 18 percent drank for "relaxation," 16 percent because they "enjoy it," while 10 percent drank only "on special occasions. " "You can't go to a party with a certain circle of friends and not have any drinks," said a California housewife. "It's mostly habit—we get together, we drink." An Illinois executive drinks "to unwind" after work. "With people screaming at you all day, you need a couple of whiskies to become civilized again. "
Of those who drink for conviviality (欢乐 ) or relaxation, most feel they could give it up without ill effect. However, studies by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism indicate that 21 percent of even moderate drinkers become "psychologically dependent" on alcohol: they think they need it. Another 14 percent are "symptomatic drinkers," meaning they are physically dependent and have difficulty in controlling their drinking, suffer blackouts, skip meals while drinking, sneak偷偷地拿) drinks, etc.
In the 14-to-29-year-old group, many males drink heavily because they consider it macho(男子气概) or socially "in. " "Where I grew up," says a 23-year-old Virginian, "it was the neighborhood custom for everybody to drink three six-packs of beer a night to prove you weren't a weak and timid person. " Heavy drinking in high school and college is attributed to peer pressure and to the sudden release from parental restraint. "No matter what we start out to do, we always end up at a bar and get drunk," says a Maryland female student. "You lose a lot of friends if you don't go along. "
In too many instances these youthful drinking habits persist through life. But our survey reveals that the proportion of moderate-to-heavy drinkers drops by two-thirds around age 30. Respondents attribute the decline to "growing up," a stable job, and the break-up of the old drinking crowd. "Once you acquire a family and responsibilities, getting drunk becomes kid stuff," says a 32-year-old from Michigan who drank so much in his youth that he was known as "Billie the Bottle. "
Concern for health is another reason people are drinking less. Medical findings show that, taken to excess, alcohol destroys brain cells, leading to mental deterioration. Heavy drinkers are more prone to cirrhosis(肝硬化) of the liver, cancers of the digestive tract and heart disease. Particularly alarming to men is recent research confirming evidence that alcohol can reduce sex drive, fertility and potency. Women are generally aware that drinking can cause birth defects, and with this in mind 24 percent abstain (戒酒) from alcohol during pregnancy.
According to a 1982 survey, one-third of Americans regard alcohol as the single greatest threat to family life. Alcohol is a significant factor in child-abuse cases, separations, divorces, and suicides. Not often mentioned in connection with alcohol abuse is the guilt, isolation and fear in which the many problem drinkers live.
But for many Americans the most worrisome aspect of alcohol abuse is drunk driving. Drivers with blood-alcohol concentrations of 10 percent are up to 15 times more likely to have a fatal accident than non-drinking drivers—and it takes only five or six drinks in two hours for a 155-pound person to reach this level, HHS says. Even three or four drinks will increase the risk of fatal accidents up to three times.
Despite today's stiffer laws, 20 percent of respondents to our poll have driven while under the influence and 15 percent report drunk driving by someone in their family. Many misjudge their own capacity and a surprising number of those interviewed-insist they are better drivers after they have had a few.
Some couples take precautions by agreeing before a party that only one of them will drink. "We have to take the baby-sitter home," explains a young Wisconsin wife. "And I wouldn't want my own daughter driven by someone on the condition we've been in at times.
Alcoholism is now officially recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association, and treatment is covered by medical insurance in many states. In the Digest's Survey, nine percent of families interviewed report that at least one family member has sought professional or medical help to overcome drinking problems. Many in the follow-up interviews credit their employers with persuading them to take treatment. However, only 45 percent of persons whose drinking has caused serious trouble in their lives have sought such assistance. "I'm not that far gone," one Kentuchian insisted. Yet his drinking has already led to divorce and several arrests.
Americans have become more concerned about alcohol abuse than ever before. When queried in recent Gallup polls, 81 percent say they regard it as a major national problem, and they want the government to do more to control it. Seventy-nine percent favor raising the legal drinking age to 21 in all states. And 36 percent would not object to allowing police to stop motorists at checkpoints for administering sobriety tests.
1. Over half of the people said in a Gallup poll that they drank for relaxation.
2. Americans are drinking less due to such reasons as concern for health and family life.
3. According to a Gallup survey, the number of drinkers aged 18-to-29 has increased by 21 percent over the past five years.
4. Some moderate drinkers think they have become addicted to alcohol.
5. Drunk drivers have fifteen times more accidents than non-drinking drivers, which is the worst aspect of alcohol abuse.
6. Over half of the drinkers who need medical help have never sought such assistance.
7. Government has taken more measures to discourage drinking as a response to the public cry for controlling alcohol abuse.
8. Heavy drinking is defined by HHS as ______daily.
9. For young male drinkers, they regard drinking as______.
10. Child-abuse, divorces, and suicides are often related to______.
答案：1. N 2. Y 3. N 4. N 5. N 6. Y 7. NG
8. one ounce of absolute alcohol 9. macho or socially "in" 10. alcohol abuse